Why focus on faith, ecology and economy?
Maryknollers living in Asia, Africa and Latin America are witnessing rising seal levels, warming temperatures, increasingly frequent and intense floods and storms that threaten the world’s most vulnerable people and species with starvation, poverty and extinction. All of these events are overshadowed by a global economic crisis that triggers inaction and far-from-adequate responses, pointing to the fact that “business as usual” is not possible if we are to truly care for all life on Earth.
At the heart of the current global social and ecological crises is an economic system that tries to lock interconnected societies into unsustainable patterns of production, over-consumption and waste, all driven by the mandate to grow. To date, this economic model has proven to promote overgrowth in some areas while leaving vulnerable populations with few benefits of development. Maryknollers around the world have witnessed how the global economy has left the common good aside, making a small number of individuals extremely wealthy while a majority of people, communities and shared natural systems that underpin the world’s ecosystems are left to suffer.
Future generations on our planet are threatened by these global patterns of production, over-consumption and waste. Protecting the common good requires that we heed Scripture’s frequent calls to embrace sufficiency as a way of life (see Exodus 16, Leviticus 23-25 and Luke 12: 13-34.) Catholic social teaching also guides us to care for God’s creation and stresses that the realization and protection of human dignity is only done in the context of right relationships with the wider society and Earth. How we organize our society – economically and politically through laws and policies – directly affects the global commons, human dignity and the capacity of individuals to flourish in community.
What is MOGC hoping to accomplish and how?
Ultimately we seek to transform the fossil-fuel-based economic model and way of life currently promoted by the industrialized North, especially the United States, toward significantly greater sustainability and social justice by building a strategic alliance of people of faith and secular organizations and communities actively seeking economic and ecological integrity. To do so we must first deepen the analysis of how faith, economy and ecology intersect. In addition to already established MOGC outlets for education and analysis such as NewsNotes and the MOGC website, we have been engaged in the following:
- Staff education – MOGC staff spent a full day with ethicist and theologian Larry Rasmussen to deepen our understanding of cosmological consciousness in order to further develop and implement an educational plan that helps people to know, articulate and internalize the new cosmology. A MOGC staff handbook is being developed.
- Maryknollers, Affiliates and others participated in an education/reflection process from January-June. Responses were gathered into a statement circulated among key country delegates participating in the International Climate Change Negotiations to be held in Copenhagen in December.
- We are soliciting and collecting homily reflections from Maryknollers, former Maryknoll lay missioners and staff on these topics and on peace and sustainable security.
- Tevyn East, who worked as a one-year volunteer with the MOGC, produced an excellent power point presentation called The Universe Story available on our website and used as a resource during workshops and at faith based gatherings.
- In Washington, D.C., the MOGC convenes a growing working group on faith, economy and ecology with an active listserv providing participants with resources. The group is in the process of circulating an organizational sign-on statement on these themes, and is distributing educational postcards that direct people to seek more information from our website. The Faith Economy Ecology Working Group will soon launch a blog page.
- The Faith Economy Ecology Working Group and the MOGC co-sponsored a successful forum in May that brought together key thinkers and faith leaders to discuss these topics and included the practical experience of a Maryknoll mission partner and a lay missioner from Mexico.
- The MOGC gave a workshop on faith ecology and economy for the leadership of religious communities who attended a symposium on ecology in Assisi, Italy.
- The MOGC gave a workshop at a conference of ecological economists in June, inserting the voice of faith based communities into this otherwise academic setting and strengthening or ties with others working on these themes.
- The MOGC also published articles on this topic through NETWORK and in Maryknoll magazine.
- A series in NewsNotes on ecological economics and on corporations will be collected into a separate booklet and available through our office and at the end of the year.
As advocates we seek to bring the questions raised through these educational processes together with the information gathered from Maryknoll experience into the public policy debate.
At the United Nations – especially into the Commission on Sustainable Development meetings and in the follow-up to Financing for Development and the Kyoto Protocol processes:
- This year the MOGC assumed the chair of the NGO Committee on Sustainable Development and cosponsored two side events on related themes – one at the time of the Commission on Sustainable Development meeting and the other at the time of the UN General Assembly meeting on climate change.
- The statement based on Maryknoll reflections on Faith Ecology and Economy was distributed to key country delegates prior to the UN Climate Conference scheduled for December 2009.
- The MOGC submitted language for the UN Conference on the Financial and Economic Crisis outcome document that highlighted this issue.
In Washington, D.C., initially by presenting them to the new administration and Congress, but primarily into discussion about U.S. energy and climate change-related policies, the food and water crises and migration
- The MOGC presented questions and Maryknoll experience in several ways in writing and in transition meetings with Obama administration staff and in congressional meetings.
- The MOGC is actively involved in addressing the food crisis, particularly by promoting the regulation of excessive speculation in the food commodities market. Thanks to outside funding, the MOGC managed the production of a short video explaining the need for re-regulation of speculation in the food commodities market. Important legislation in this area is moving along in Congress.
- We have convened groups to submit input to the State Department’s Consultation Document on the Obama administration’s new Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative.
- We have also engaged in the Congressional debate over climate change legislation and with the Obama administration around the Copenhagen meetings. The MOGC gave workshops on this topic at Ecumenical Advocacy Days.
- We convene a group of faith based organizations that has been meeting with staff at the U.S. Department of Treasury and with Congressional Offices to ensure that less industrialized countries can equitably access climate adaptation funding made available through global climate change negotiations.
- The MOGC has joined a working group looking at the connection between climate disasters and migration and is working to make these connections visible as we sit on various planning committees for the 2010 Ecumenical Advocacy Days which will focus on migration, immigration and displaced people.
- MOGC staff accompanied Maryknoll lay mission candidates on congressional visits raising key moral concerns about climate legislation.
With whom is the MOGC working on Faith Ecology Economy?
- Maryknoll missioners concerned about the issues of ecology and poverty.
- CoNGO Committee on Sustainable Development at the United Nations (Conference of NGOs in consultative relationship with ECOSOC).
- Faith Economy Ecology Working Group: a coalition of faith based groups interested in working with ecological economists to articulate a different future.
- Washington Interfaith Staff Community Ecology and Energy Working Group: interfaith Washington offices interested in the U.S. Congress passing just and equitable climate legislation.
- U.S. Working Group on the Food Crisis: diverse coalition of groups responding to the global food crisis bringing attention to the underlying causes of the crisis and promoting transformative solutions to fix our broken food system.
- Commodity Market Speculation coalition: a diverse coalition of mostly energy industry groups working on energy commodity issues. Over the past year the MOGC helped bring in a number of religious, agriculture and justice groups and to expand the focus of the coalition to include addressing speculation in food commodities.
- Interfaith Working Group on Trade and Investment: a Washington-based working group with representatives from a range of faith-based organizations committed to asserting a stronger presence of communities of faith in public policy discussions on international trade and investment.
- Antitrust Committee of the Food Crisis Working Group The MOGC is just beginning to convene this group formed to encourage and facilitate grassroots participation in public hearings on the effects of corporate concentration in agriculture.
- Climate and Migration Working Group: Faith based and secular organizations working on making the link between climate events and migration as climate debate continues and the immigration debate heats up.